Stealing’s not for everyone
Another day, another cryptocurrency exit scam. ICO heists are so common these days that they’re barely worth reporting on—unless they’re as spectacularly dumb as Savedroid(SVD), which tried to backpedal its midnight run by pretending they were kidding all along.
Here’s the story, for those readers who were smart enough to ignore SaveDroid from the start: in February the Frankfurt-based startup held an ICO, raising $50 million in cash and tokens for “a self-learning AI algorithm enabling smart saving and spending,” whatever that means.
More recently, one of Savedroid’s dimmer bulbs seems to have alighted on a very unique way to stand out from the rest of the cryptospace. Sometime on Thursday, the entire webpage disappeared and was replaced by the Southpark meme of Kyle losing all his money. “Aaaand it’s gone.” Telegram, Twitter and Reddit groups also went dark, except for a Tweeted picture of the CEO getting drunk on the business’ money.
Then things got weird. Savedroid tried to backtrack. The owners came back to social media, and the website reappeared, this time with a long, winding explanation in broken English, that the exit scam was a joke all along. They were just testing their investors, to show them how easy it is to pull an exit scam in the crypto world. It’s just a prank, bro.
Watch Savedroid’s surreal apology:
Savedroid CEO Yassin Hankir:
First of all, let me apologize for the drastic campaign which we pulled–putting down the website, putting down the telegram channel. But this was not meant to do any prank, this was not meant to do fun of anyone, okay, but actually we did that to convey a very important, very serious message, which we believe the whole ICO and crypto industry even are concerned with for the future. If we look to this market, and that’s what we have experienced in the last four months there’s so much scam happening, scam from the beginning to the very end of an ICO, exit scams all over the place, and I believe that this is the tip of the iceberg….. And that is why we wanted to send this very drastic message by just saying “Look, how easy it could have been that even we as a highly regulated german stock corporation could have just have run away, done an exit scam with all the funds leaving all the investors just behind.” But of course we have not done that. .…
So Just What Happened?
Remember that time your parents looked up the search history in the family computer, and you covered it up by blaming it on your friends? Then you had to paper over the cracks in that lie with a longer story about how it was for a big school project, and now your Mom thinks you’re getting a PhD in Nazi Horse Porn.
That’s what Savedroid just did to its own reputation, in cryptocurrency form.
There aren’t a lot of situations where “pretending to be a scammer” is a good business decision. Maybe Savedroid really was pulling off some kind of weird publicity stunt, because Yassin Hankir is the cryptocurrency version of Michael Scott. “I wasn’t defrauding you, that was just a test to show you how vulnerable you are to being defrauded.”
It would be smart for investors to crowdfund to hire #hitman
— crypto_prophet (@cryoto_prophet) April 18, 2018
The more plausible explanation, theorized by cynical readers on Reddit and Twitter, is the heretofore well-intentioned CEO found a wallet full of Ethereum a little too tempting, and he tried to run without thinking it through. However, after a few death threats and Interpol reports, the scammers lost their nerve and realized they’re not cut out for life on the run. Within a few hours, cybersleuths had tracked down the CEO and stalked the company’s offices.
Dumb move, asshole. A combination of an Egyptian beer, a distinctive backdrop, and a bunch of time looking at resort photos, helped us eventually track down the location.
Coordinates: 26.155949, 34.244912
That’s the Movenpick Resort on the Red Sea in El Queseir.
This is why crypto-scammers make a point of disguising their identities, to the extent that most only accept payment in hard-to-trace currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Not only had Savedroid’s team been very public about their identities, they had also accepted contributions to their company’s real-world bank accounts.
Savedroid’s future: “Aaaaand it’s gone.”
On the plus side, if the point was publicity, there’s no question it worked: Savedroid is a much more famous company that it was a few days ago, although it’s branding has irrevocably gone from “Scam” to “incompetent scam.”
If Savedroid is only “pretending” to be a scam, they really went out of their way to show it. The website is like a bingo page for ICO get-rich-quick-schemes. It’s got everything: the guarantees of easy riches, an unintelligible word salad of clever tech words, and a white paper that might as well have been copy-pasted from wikipedia. The only thing that’s missing is a pyramid diagram.
Not only were investors unamused, Savedroid’s partners were doubly unimpressed. Payment and Banking withdrew Savedroid’s 2017 Fintech of the Year Award, and German prosecutors are considering legal actions. Here’s how Savedroid’s banking partner addressed inquiries from panicked investors:
Still, we have to give Savedroid credit for spreading the word. They certainly did achieve their goals, highlighting the awful business strategies of one company in particular.
If Hankir really wanted to stand out from the crowd, he should have tried running a legitimate business instead.